'We are fragile, I know we are' - Jose Mourinho's damning verdict on Manchester United flops
Fenerbahce 2 Manchester United 1
Published 04/11/2016 | 02:30
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho rounded on his players last night after their Europa League defeat to Fenerbahce, accusing them of treating the match like a pre-season friendly.
This was United's fifth successive away defeat in Europe and there is softness about them when they play on the Continent, which infuriated their manager here.
Rather than a shock, this sort of performance, frail at the back and blunt in attack, has become the norm and their former player Paul Scholes predicted it will take years for Mourinho to put things right.
A club that competed in three Champions League finals in the space of four years under Alex Ferguson is now struggling to get out of their group in the far less salubrious surroundings of the Europa League and Mourinho did not try to shield his players from criticism.
"What disappointed me most, is I have quite a big experience of playing Turkish teams," Mourinho said. "I played twice with Real Madrid and twice with Chelsea, Porto too. I passed all my experience to the players. If you play against them in our home, it's easy, always 2-0, 3-0 4-0, but you come to Turkey and it is completely different story.
"I told them to wait for that, to be focused on that and not to be focused on the easy game against them at Old Trafford last week, but we start the game as though we are asleep and they start at 100mph.
"For me, football is from the first second, they played an emotional game and they deserved to win. We are fragile, I know we are. We have to be stronger mentally and start the game better than we did.
"Our problem started in our global attitude. They were playing a Champions League final, and we were playing a summer friendly. That is the reality of the way the game started. Football is not just about quality, it is also about effort, commitment, playing [to] the limits, giving everything.
"A team that concedes a goal after two minutes is a team that is not ready, it is a team that is not mentally prepared, not focused, not concentrated.
"At 1-0 they are where they want to be. Then they [Fenerbahce] defend, then they counter-attack, then they stop the game, then they simulate free-kicks, then they create conflicts, then they put pressure on the referee's decisions...
"But it's their game, that is not their fault, this is our fault because we let them be in that situation. After their second goal we had a reaction, probably we could get a different result, but I think we didn't deserve more, because football is 90 minutes and is to be played in the maximum of your desire, capacity, concentration."
Mourinho was careful not to openly criticise their performance, but he did highlight the fact he is having to play two full-backs at centre-back in Danny Blind and Marcos Rojo because of injuries to Chris Smalling and Eric Bailly, while Phil Jones is only fit enough for a place on the bench.
"I know we have a problem away from home," Mourinho added. "It is difficult without two proper centre-backs because every strong team starts with two solid centre-backs and the goalkeeper. We are playing with two left-backs.
"But that doesn't excuse the way we started. They have a free-kick, they take it fast, we are sleeping, we don't react, we lose the second ball, we don't mark in the box , they score and the game is a different story."
United's deficiencies at the back were also dwelt on by their former midfielder Scholes, although in truth there are issues all over the pitch, despite the fact Wayne Rooney scored his first goal for his club since the start of August.
"We didn't have 38 shots, like we did against Burnley," said Mourinho. "That's an impossible number to repeat, especially away from home. But we had enough chances, we had great positions. We are not scoring enough goals, that is the reality."
Scholes was harsher in his assessment of both United's defence and attack.
He said: "I think United have two big problems at the minute. They're really struggling to score goals and to win games of football with Blind and Rojo at centre-half, they almost need to score three goals, because they are always going to give goals away.
"They don't sense danger, they have no pace, they don't get physical against people and it's a worry because at the other end they really don't look like scoring goals.
"There's only so much a manager can do, but once the players go across the white line they have to be ready and they obviously weren't tonight.
"United were rattled, they couldn't handle it and for most of the game Fenerbahce bullied United. With those two centre-halves United looked as thought they could concede goals all day long.
"When they go to Swansea on Sunday, they will have to score three goals. We've had a painful three years and I think the next 18 months to two years could be very similar until this manager has three, four transfer windows.
"I wonder when Jose took over whether he thought this team was better than it actually was. I think we saw the answer tonight." (© Daily Telegraph, London)